by Sarah Curtis
I recently had the privilege of attending the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students annual conference, the National Training Event (NTE), from 3—7 December. Around 1700 Christian university students congregated from across Australia and overseas. It made for quite an amazing atmosphere and was well worth the eleven–and-a-half hour car trip to Canberra. As one of four Christians @ Uni club members from Gippsland who attended, it also provided an opportunity to meet students from the Ballarat campus.
Each day kicked off with a morning seminar followed by a combination of prayer and reflection time and electives. Each student was also assigned a ‘Strand Group’, an in-depth bible study that equips students with the skills to read the bible effectively for themselves. This year I learnt how to take a piece of scripture and view it in the context of the bible as a whole. It was a lot of hard work — but so totally worth it!
Did I mention the food? It tasted wonderful! We each received a lunch box containing either a sandwich or wrap, as well as piece of fruit, miniature cake and a packet of potato chips. There was a table designated for swapping or discarding unwanted lunchbox items — a table that frequently featured chicken-flavoured chips!
The lunch line stretched halfway across the room and out the door. Food was thrust into your hands as you were quickly ushered to a table. Like cows being herded into a paddock we were told where to sit — no saving seats allowed! It was easy to lose one’s companions amidst the mass of faces, but this also served as chance to mingle with all sorts of people.
The conference also had various themed rooms we could visit. The Prayer Walk was a room set aside for silent prayer and reflection. A sequence of stations were set up, with various prayer topics and scriptures providing prompts guiding students through the room. It was a chance to step aside and be still — to simply spend time with God. The Act Now room was a different story. Jam-packed with interactive sections, this room sought to create awareness about overseas missionaries and the ways that students can help. Initiatives such as writing letters to Christian students across the globe, dressing up in Nepalese outfits, and trying one’s skill in a flight simulator were among the many highlights.
Amidst all the chaos, there were some moments to catch your breath. In addition to prayer and reflection time there were also a number of hours of free time; I spent most of mine in the Prayer Walk, Act Now, perusing the pop-up Koorong bookshop, or sightseeing. In addition, Gippsland and Ballarat joined forces one afternoon during a visit to the National Museum.
Despite all the exciting things we did, I have to say I most looked forward to the evening sessions. After dinner, all 1700 piled into the auditorium (again, no saving seats!) where, along with the lively band, we lifted our voices to the sound of upbeat hymns and modern Christian selections, as well as a new song written just for the occasion (rather impressive I thought!). Then came the best part — the guest speaker. I had thoroughly enjoyed this presentation last year and so I had awaited this year’s with great anticipation. I was not disappointed either — Richard Chin was absolutely inspirational! His message displayed spiritual depth and maturity whilst remaining authentic and sensitive to the student audience. Chin’s focus, ‘All Things New’, made reference to the eternal life and godly reward described in the book of Revelation. He also expressed the centrality of God’s love, both at a personal level and for motivation and effective working of the gospel. The message was largely continuous, spanning across the evening sessions leading up to a climax. This gave students an opportunity to make a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus Christ.
My favourite quote of Richard’s, “Nothing is random. God is in control of everything. He is in control.”
Personally, the message really hit home, and I felt it deepened my sense of identity and purpose. Overall, I felt encouraged to make a difference in the lives of others and live my own life in a way that reflects the character of Jesus.
I was not the only one who enjoyed this experience. Here’s what other students had to say:
“It was encouraging to see that there are a lot of Christian students out there, particularly when you don’t see many on a small campus.” —Laura
“NTE was very encouraging and was a great chance to meet up with the Christian students from Ballarat. It was a really valuable time of learning skills to better understand the Bible.” —Jenn
I can thoroughly recommend this experience for anyone interested and I would encourage future students to attend the next one in early December, 2017.
President, Christians @ Uni Gippsland